The False Claim that Muslims have no programs to counter radicalization - updated 5/23/2015

The False Claim that Muslims have no programs to counter radicalization

by Sheila Musaji

Over and over again, Islamophobes make the same series of claims after some act of violence carried out somewhere by Muslims.  See the TAM collection of information Resources for Responding to Islamophobia for answers to many of these repeated claims.

Robert Spencer has repeatedly falsely claimed thatAnd yet still no Muslim group anywhere has any program designed to teach young Muslims to reject the view of Islam that fuels these attacks. The significance of that fact is enormous, but no one notes or cares about that.  (emphasis mine).  His partner in hate, Pamela Geller wrote: “We hear, meanwhile, no cries for reform. “Moderate Muslims” hold no protests against the jihad here or abroad.”

This is absolute nonsense.  What is a “fact of enormous significance” is the Islamophobes’ refusal to see anything but negatives about Islam and Muslims.  American Muslims (as well as Muslims around the world) are attempting to counter the message of the extremists.  If those making these false claims about the non-existence of Muslim programs had read Good News Stories About/By/For North American Muslims in 2012, they would have noticed a category in that collection titled “ANTI-RADICALIZATION AND EXTREMISM EFFORTS”.  We are attempting to understand how radicalization happens, and to work both within our communities and with law enforcement agencies to counter extremist messages. Muslim voices against extremism and terrorism have been clear.  Muslims have held rallies and protests against extremism.  They include Fatwas & Statements by Muslim Scholars & Organizations, Statements and Articles by well-known Muslim scholars and community activists.  A collection of such denunciations and clarifications may be found HERE.  Muslim Scholars are attempting to correct the false interpretations of Islam being presented by extremists.  You can find a number of Muslim community discussions of various interpretations of particular verses Qur’an HERE, and to discussions of misrepresentations and variant interpretations of Qur’anic and Islamic terms HERE

A report by Duke University titled Anti-terror lessons of Muslim Americans includes the following information on anti-radicalization activities of American Muslim communities:

In addition, this report highlights the preventative measures that have been taken, and continue to be taken, within Muslim-American communities. Our research has identified five significant ways in which Muslim-American communities have counteracted radicalization, ranging from statements to concrete actions:

... 1. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DENUNCIATIONS OF VIOLENCE - We have found that an important anti-radicalization activity of Muslim-American communities since 9/11 has been the active denunciation of terrorist violence. Muslim-Americans have done so in public and in private, drawing on both religious and secular arguments. Much of this has gone unnoticed in the mainstream press, and many Americans wonder—erroneously—why Muslims have been silent on the subject. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, for example, wrote in 2005, “The Muslim village has been derelict in condemning the madness of jihadist attacks.”53 Such comments overlook the fatwa issued on September 27, 2001, by senior Islamic scholars in the United States and the Middle East, urging Muslims to support military action against the perpetrators of 9/11:  All Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorize the innocents, and those who permit the killing of non-com-batants without a justifiable reason. Islam has declared the spilling of blood and the destruction of property as absolute prohibitions until the Day of Judgment. ... [It is] necessary to apprehend the true perpetrators of these crimes, as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement, financing or other support. They must be brought to justice in an impartial court of law and [punished] appropriately. ... [It is] a duty of Muslims to participate in this effort with all possible means.54 Muslim American websites and publications routinely repeat these views.

2. SELF-POLICING - Our project finds that Muslim-Americans’ statements denouncing terrorism have been reinforced with concrete actions in their communities to monitor signs of radicalization. The rarity of terrorism in the United States means that few Muslim-Americans have ever encountered an actual terrorist, or even an individual who has expressed a willingness to engage in violence. Nonetheless, our research indicates that Muslim-Americans are engaged in a heightened level of self-policing against radicalization that may help to account for the infrequency of terrorist acts.

3. COMMUNITY-BUILDING - Of Muslim-Americans who have engaged in terrorist violence since September 11, 2001, there is no single pattern concerning the extent to which the were integrated into their communities. Some of them were loners who had little connection to any community at all; some had deeper connections abroad than locally; and some had stronger ties with a handful of buddies than with their community as a whole; and finally, some, like the Lackawanna Six, were well known and turned in by a community member. In the case of the Muslims from North Carolina indicted in 2009, it appears that the individuals were initially integrated into the community, but as they radicalized, they left their masjids and became more isolated. In order for Muslim-American communities to bring collective pressure on individuals inclined to radicalize, they must draw those individuals into the organizations and social networks that counter radical beliefs, such as mosques, Islamic centers, religious bookstores, ethnic institutions, civil rights organizations, and other communal associations that draw Muslim-Americans together. This image runs counter to some of the concerns expressed by non-Muslim Americans about Islamic organizations in the United States, which they perceive are channels for radicalization. Our evidence suggests the opposite: Muslim-American community-building is a significant factor in the prevention of radicalization.

4. POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT - A further set of efforts that Muslim-Americans have undertaken since September 11, 2001, involve participation in the democratic politics of the United States. As with other activities of Muslim-American communities, the primary goal is not preventing radicalization, but is, instead, the defense of the rights and interests of Muslim-Americans in a political environment that they experience as threatening.  Nonetheless, this political mobilization has the effect of channeling grievances into democratic forums and integrating Muslim-Americans into the democratic system.

5. IDENTITY POLITICS - The expression of a Muslim-American identity has taken on an increasingly assertive tone in the years since the 9/11 attacks. This trend has taken the form of young women wearing headscarves at political rallies, young men growing beards as an embodiment of their faith, workers in various industries claiming the right to take breaks for prayers; parents sending their children to Islamic schools, and other public expressions of Islamic piety.  While some observers are concerned that heightened expressions of Muslim-American piety may be a sign of impending radicalization, there is evidence to the contrary. The Pew Research Center’s 2007 survey of Muslim-Americans found that respondents who said religion was very important in their lives were one third less likely than other respondents to consider attacks on civilians to be sometimes or often justified “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”101 (Justifications of these attacks were very unlikely—under 10 percent—among both sets of Muslim-American respondents. By way of comparison, according to a separate poll of a national sample, 24 percent of Americans considered “bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” to be sometimes or often justified.)102 Muslim-American identity is itself a product of Americanization.  For generations, Muslims in the United States were not “Muslim-American”—rather, they identified themselves by ethnicity, such as Arab or Tatar. With the emergence of hyphenated American identities in the 1960s, many Muslims in the U.S. also adopted hyphenated identities along ethnic lines, such as Arab-American. Only since 9/11, spurred by national security programs, has “Muslim-American” become a popular self-designation. Like other recently invented panethnic identities in the U.S., such as Hispanic-American and Asian-American, Muslim-American identity was promoted in part by a political movement that sought to aggregate sub-groups in order to increase visibility and influence. The organizations that have taken this name in their title or mission statements, such as the Muslim American Society, are among the leaders in mobilizing their constituency for political participation.  The assumption of a Muslim-American identity may have resonated in part because it reflects the new social configuration of Islam in the United States. Over the past several decades, immigration and conversion have turned Muslim communities into far more multiethnic sites than the homogenous enclaves of a generation ago. According to a survey of more than 400 mosques in 2000, one third had no majority of participants from any single ethnic group.103 Immigrants from numerous countries come to know one another far more than they would have in their home countries, creating a new Islamic identity that is distinct from the narrower sense of ethnic identity, as described by one young Muslim-American leader/ ...

The Muslim community is working to address all of these issues, and there are programs and efforts underway that approach this from many directions.  Some are focused on changing practices in local mosques and communities to make them welcoming to a wider range of Muslims, particularly the younger generation.  Some are focused on providing accurate Islamic information, or countering extremist interpretations and views.  Some are focused on providing opportunities for young people to get involved in social services and community welfare projects.  Some are focused on providing services for at risk youth.  Some are focused on countering false Islamophobic claims about Islam and Muslims.  Some are focused on training the next generation of Muslim leaders.  Some are focused on education, etc.

There are many programs and efforts being carried out by the American and Canadian Muslim communities (as well as communities in Europe).  Here are just a few examples of such programs and efforts:

Haroon Siddique reports on a film called “Combinations” which challenges extremism by and against British Muslims.

“Combinations” is a short film being produced by Media Cultured, a fledgling organisation using film and social media to challenge extremism by and against Muslims. In an age when the Taliban and Somali group al-Shabaab use Twitter, and the anti-Islamic film “The Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube was disseminated by extremists on both sides to further their own ends, Media Cultured is an attempt to use the same tools to promote harmony rather than discord.  The community interest company in Teesside is the brainchild of director Amjid Khazir, who has been working with local mosques and national faith groups to help the Muslim community understand internet safety and online propaganda. “We are trying to achieve a level of integration and tolerance between communities in an area [social media] that’s being ignored by the government,” said Khazir. “If you ever wanted to define big society, this is it.”  “Combinations”, made in conjunction with Thousand Yard Films, features Imran Naeem, who runs a boxing gym, is a community volunteer and carried the Olympic torch through Darlington last summer. The title refers to the flurries of punches thrown by boxers as well as Naeem’s dual British-Muslim heritage. The trailer has already been shown in one “hard knock” Middlesbrough school, as Khazir describes it, where he says the children’s initial perceptions were challenged. He is in discussions to put the film on alongside workshops in other schools, as well as university Islamic societies, mosques and prisons, initially locally and then nationally.  When showing the trailer, which is being developed into a short film, Khazir pauses it at different stages, asking people to write down their thoughts before pressing play and highlighting any mistaken conclusions they may have jumped to.  “As a positive role model for young Muslims he [Naeem] is a fantastically credible, practising [Muslim], guy who’s part of the community and who also challenges the xenophobic views and discriminatory views of racists who paint us all as one bloc of evil Mullahs,” says Khazir. “He’s the antithesis of that. We can achieve the same ends with one piece of work. We can reduce extremism, providing positive role models for Muslims and to non-Muslims we can show the opposite of what the stereotypes portray in the media.”

“Unmosqued” is a documentary film in production which aims to highlight the growing need for reform in many of the mosques in America. The purpose of the documentary is to engage a group of people who have been disconnected from their local mosque and explore the various reasons that have led to this sentiment.  The idea is to allow alienated young people to express themselves and to bring those issues to the community leadership so that they can be addressed. UnMosqued aims to explore this growing unease with the masjid space and why it exists. One clear factor is the cultural divide that pervades the American Mosque landscape. According to The American-Mosque 2011 report, “3/4 of all mosques are dominated by one ethnic group. In most cases this one group is either South Asian, Arab, or African American,” (p.14). As Muslims become integrated within American society and grow up in a diverse multi-racial environment, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to enter a mosque that is predominated by a certain culture. Millenials and Generation Xers do not have as strong of a relationship with their parents’ country of origin which exacerbates the discomfort they feel when entering ethnic-based masajid.  UnMosqued has a Facebook page and posts updates on Twitter at @Unmosqued You can see a presentation about the project by one of the founders, Abu Yusuf here

Another project aimed at resolving issues that are alienating more women from attending many mosques, is the Side Entrance project developed by Hind Makki.  “The mosque plays a certain role in Western Muslim communities – it’s the glue that holds us together, teaching Muslims about Islam, providing a space for Muslims to be in community with one another. If mosques neglect the needs of women to prioritize men’s needs, or are hostile toward women altogether to the point where women are leaving , that’s a greater disservice to our beautiful faith than my publishing a few negative photos and catalyzing an online discussion about the spaces women occupy in our mosques.  ... The point of Side Entrance isn’t to shame male mosque leaders, but to catalyze a discussion and work toward change. So, I hope the conversations it starts are mature and goal-oriented, mixed-gender and seen as an asset to the Muslim community, considering it highlights the experiences and views of women within the community itself. ”  **

Masood Khan was inspired to make “Muslim Resistance”, a series of films examining British Muslims’ efforts to combat extremism.

He says “The reality is that Muslims have been working against the extremists in the their community way before 7/7 or even 9/11. It is the reason why the likes of Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, the now exiled leader of al-Muhijiroun, were shunned by the Muslims up and down the country way before they became the known faces of Islamic extremism. It is also why their followers number in the hundreds rather than in the hundred of thousands. But nobody talks or writes about that.”

Each film deals with Muslims from different backgrounds, but each with their own approach to fighting extremism. The first film in the series, The Struggle Within, looks at Luton Muslims Farasat latif and Abdur Rehman, who follow the orthodox Salafi school of thought. Salifis are often derided in the press as extremist nut-jobs. But while they dress the same and have beards, there the similarity ends. For almost the last 20 years they have been trying to persuade Muslims not to get involved with groups like al-Muhajiroun, who they believe distort Islam.

In the second film, Under the Prayer Mat, I followed a Bristol-based organisation funded by the Preventing Violent Extremism programme. Kalsoom, Shabana and a handful of other women were taking on the old guard in mosques, and educating and empowering Muslims. Kalsoom was dismayed by the Islamic education women were getting locally, where they were often being taught by women who themselves knew very little about Islam, so Kalsoom organised access to prominent Muslim scholars such as Usama Hassan.

Back from the Brink, the third film, follows the Active Change Foundation, an organisation based in London. Brothers Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir went to Afghanistan in 2002 to fight British and American troops. But what they saw there changed their thinking completely. Returning to Britain, they began trying to persuade other Muslims to reject al-Qaida, and warning policy makers of the looming threat. After the 7 July 2005 bombings in London, the government set up the Preventing Violent Extremism programme, working with the ACF on tackling extremism. The brothers’ journey gives them a unique insight into how the extremist ideology and rhetoric can persuade young Muslims to join the extremist cause. And this insight has helped keep the streets of Britain safe.

A 28 minute video “The Roots & Cure of Extremism” by Abdul Hakim Murad, and a short 4 minute video on Curing Extremism by Shaiks Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf & Abdal Hakim Murad were developed and put on YouTube to counter the extremist message.

In the article North American Muslims Determined to Counter Violence and Terrorism, I listed a number of efforts including:

- MPAC’s Building Bridges document,
- ISNA’s statement Against Terrorism and Religious Extremism:  Muslim Position and Responsibilities in 2006. 
- Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq’s statement against punishment for Apostasy in Islam in 2007 which was signed by over 100 scholars and activists
- The Sunni Shia Dialogue effort organized by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.  - a Muslim Intrafaith Code of Honor was developed and publically signed by Sunni and Shia scholars at ISNA in 2007. 
- CAIRs Not In the Name of Islam Petition which received 691,591 signatures in 2004.  the Fiqh Council of North America Fatwa against terrorism in 2005.  You can find an extensive list of fatwas, articles, and statements against extremism and terrorism on The American Muslim (TAM) website under the heading Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism.

Spencer Ackerman reports on a program called Viral Peace which is being developed by Shahed Amanullah and uses internet trolling to to annoy, frustrate and humiliate denizens of online extremist forums.  Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage.

Shahed Amanullah working with young people has developed Generation Change to confront online radicalization of Muslim Youth.  Generation Change chapters are forming in many countries across the world.  Generation Change is a youth-led global network dedicated to empowering the next generation of innovators and leaders. It provides a platform for the free exchange of ideas across borders and cultures, and a community of peers and mentors who use their collective resources to positively impact communities locally and globally. Generation Change hopes to build a strong network of young leaders who… are positively influencing their communities now and will continue doing so in the years to come. This network can provide a forum for exchanging ideas and creating projects that can have impact on a global scale, both through offline events and online connections. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared members of Generation Change in the United States “unofficial ambassadors on behalf of our country.”

MPAC has developed an anti-terrorism campaign which is part of MPAC’s broader counter-terrorism and civil rights campaign and is intended for mosques, Imams, and Muslim community leaders. Endorsed by the Islamic Society of North America and the Department of Justice, the Grassroots anti-Terrorism Campaign provides a set of guidelines for Imams and Muslim leaders to implement in their mosques in order to ensure financial and ideological transparency, and offers tools to help educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the Quran’s message against violence and extremism

The American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) “builds human capital and leadership potential among American Muslims. The Institute believes that a healthy democracy is defined by the participation of all its citizens working in concert— and sometimes in contention—to affect the processes that impact their daily lives. The Institute envisions a new generation of Muslim leaders who are able to fully engage co-religionists, constituents, and fellow citizens in the work of building better communities for all.  AMCLI emerged in 2006 to address an ongoing crisis of leadership within Muslim communities. The new generation of Muslim civic leaders is being asked to lead, but they are not provided with the tools necessary for effective leadership. Without empowered leadership, Muslim organizations continue to struggle to address community needs, and sufficient trust is not being built between Muslim organizations. Therefore, Muslims in America, now more than ever, are increasingly isolated from each other, and from regional/national campaigns and domestic and foreign policy discussions where Muslim voices are vital.  During the nine-month program, fellows enhance skills, visibility, and networks to help their communities move from the margins to the mainstream through civic engagement. AMCLI identifies leaders who share this commitment to a vibrant pluralistic public square and provides practical training, community building opportunities, and resources. The Institute aims to empower emerging American Muslim civic leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 to help their communities engage in effective civic participation.” **

MPAC has an internship program to train young leaders.  “Our prestigious internship program helps develop aspiring young leaders who are committed to making Muslims a vital and contributing component in American society. We provide interns with the opportunity to develop their research skills and leadership skills, and build effective communication skills. Interns will gain hands-on experience in government, media, community engagement, interfaith relations and Hollywood outreach.  Interns will get the opportunity to build leadership skills through weekly leadership trainings, build effective resumes, networking and building connections and explore the exciting opportunities available in the Washington, DC, or Los Angeles area. **

The article Muslim Scholars and Community Leaders Need to Counter Ignorance With New Approach notes that:

... MPAC recently released a series of videos from well known American Muslims titled Saying No to Hate, No to Violence calling on all people of consciousness to bring an end to senseless violence (most recently in the massive demonstrations that have swept across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia).  The videos are being released in Arabic, English, Farsi, Pashtu, and Urdu.  In the series, Dr. Maher Hathout, MPAC’s Senior Adviser; Nouman Ali Khan, the Founder of Bayyinah Institute; Imam Zia of the Islamic center of Irving; and AbdulNasir Jangda, Founder and Director of the Qalam Institute; examine the current protests against an amateur anti-Muslim hate video in light of the Prophet’s example of responding to hate and intolerance with patience and wisdom.

MPAC along with ISNA previously released “Injustice Cannot Defeat Justice”, a public service announcement featuring nine of America and Britains’s leading Muslim figures speaking against the use of violence as a means to impact change and its violation of Islam’s core teachings.  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf,  Imam Suhaib Webb, Dr. Maher Hathout, Imam Ihsan Bagby, Imam Mohamed Magid, Imam Zaid Shakir, Sheikh Abdal-Hakim Murad,  Dr. Jamal Badawi,  Sheikh Yassir Qadhi.  This is posted on YouTube in English. Some of the powerful and direct messages featured in the video include:

“You don’t see Allah giving success to the advocates of extremism, indiscriminate violence and killing civilians. Where are they successful? You just see one mess after another. It’s time for us to start cleaning up those messes. And even going beyond that, it’s time for us to contribute to the construction of something that is beautiful.” - Imam Zaid Shakir

“I share with these other imams and great leaders in encouraging all of you to avoid and stay away from these types of messages and instead focus on being a positive role model in society by taking part in the production of Islam in this society and being able to appropriate your positions as Muslims in this society by living up to the Prophetic example.” - Imam Suhaib Webb

“This religion is not our property. We have no right to detract, to pollute, to sully the good name of Islam and the good name of our Prophet (peace be upon him)... And it’s important to not arrogate to oneself the idea that somehow you know what the will of God is.” - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

“The media is flooded with quotations and statements from people who… have the audacity to take certain verses and twist the meaning and ignore what the Arabic language actually indicates, and pass judgments that make Islam and Muslims a very frightening phenomena, which is contrary to the reality.” - Dr. Maher Hathout

“We as Muslims are instructed to respond to tyranny and to fight it in a proper manner. There is no denying that we as Muslims have to stand up for truth and justice, that we have to help those who are in need of our help—that we have help the oppressed, the poor, the weak, the widow, and the orphan. This is part and parcel of being not just Muslim, but really of being a decent human being.” - Shaykh Yassir Qadhi

CAIR released a video appeal in Yoruba by Imam Abdu Semih Tadese of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.  Yoruba is spoken by more than 20 million people.  They also released an appeal against violent protests in Arabic by Nihad Awad.   The videos are posted on YouTube.

The ISPU Report Tackling Muslim Radicalization: Lessons from Scotland details a cutting-edge solution currently operating in Scotland by the SOLAS Foundation.  The SOLAS program discusses controversial issues in order to explain them, based upon scriptural Islamic sources, and to undermine any confusion that may have arisen about them. It also develops initiatives and programs that cater to different Muslim groups.  For example, it addresses commonly held misperceptions within the community on issues that are most frequently exploited by radicals: jihad, citizenship and civic involvement, anti-Semitism, religious extremism, and others. By presenting mainstream Islamic teachings on these issues clearly and conclusively, aberrant views can be corrected and the motivation to radicalize undermined. 

The American Muslim (TAM) site was one of 7 efforts by American Muslims that received positive mention in the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University (HSPI) Report on Countering Internet Radicalization.  Page 11 of the report states: “To generate a sense of context, a sampling (albeit unscientific) of noteworthy and creative initiatives—many of which are not very well known—are highlighted below. Admittedly, some of these measures may be limited in their ability to counteract the impact of the extremist narrative, which is being accepted and adopted by an important minority around the world. It is also important to recognize that certain countries and institutions may be sending mixed messages by simultaneously engaging or acquiescing in other activities that would seem to undercut the efforts referenced.”  The report then lists a series of organizations and efforts in a number of countries around the world that represent positive attempts to counteract the extremist narrative. In the United States the report lists 7 such efforts:

1) The 2001 fatwa condemning terrorism and extremism issued by American Muslim jurists and ultimately endorsed by more than 120 U.S. Muslim groups.  2) The 2005 Fiqh Council of North America fatwa against terrorism and extremism.  3) “The American Muslim,” an online journal, seeks to highlight the voices of Muslims who have spoken out against terrorism and extremism. The magazine describes the latter voices as “the Muslim majority who don’t get publicity.” 4) The “On the Road in America” reality series.
5) The Terrorism Research Center’s “Terror Web Watch.”  6) The Muslim Public Affairs Councils Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism Handbook.  7) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ “intensive training DVD for DHS personnel who interact with Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and people from the broader Arab and Muslim world.”

The #MyJihad campaign was developed with the motto: “Taking back Jihad one hashtag at a time from anti-Muslim and Muslim extremists. Taking back Islam.”  Ahmed Rehab began the campaign in Chicago.  Interestingly, both groups at whom the social media campaign was directed (Islamophobes and Muslim extremists) were angered by this campaign.  These are the only two groups who equate jihad and terrorism. An article How Muslims understand the term “jihad” expressed the reason that so many in the American Muslim community feel that it is important to counter the arguments and definitions of both Muslim extremists and Islamophobes: “The use of the term jihad to describe acts that are reprehensible is an attempt to justify unjustifiable actions. ... The claim that terrorists are engaged in any act of lawful jihad is false. The Islamophobes’ definition of jihad, based on the same specious thinking as the terrorists, is also false. Neither terrorists or Islamophobes have the right to co-opt or hijack or defame the term jihad by their criminal interpretations. We reject the terrorist definition and we reject the Islamophobes definition of Jihad in favor of the traditional, legitimate, respectable, spiritual concept. JIHAD is not a dirty word.”

The Fiqh Council of North America issued a FCNA Resolution or Fatwa: On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans in which the scholars made it clear that Islamic teachings require respect of the laws of the land where Muslims live as minorities, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so long as there is no conflict with Muslims’ obligation for obedience to God. We do not see any such conflict with the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Other statements have been issued against Holocaust Denial & anti-Semitism, against any Global Blasphemy Laws, in support of defense of freedom of speech.  There in fact a number of efforts to speak out against blasphemy laws, to work to end domestic violence and honor killings in the Muslim community, and to educate the community on such issues, and to develop programs like the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign-breaking the silence on violence against women, and the Change This Campaign.

In Britain, the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), and HOPE not hate (HNH), have begun a new program. This is an Alliance Against On-Street Grooming and Child Sexual Abuse called CAASE. ‘Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation’. They say: Our aims are simple. We want to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, via education and campaigning across all communities. We want to encourage reporting and promote services to help vulnerable young people. We want to produce training kits and background fact-sheets for faith and community leaders, so they can speak out with knowledge and confidence. CAASE is being supported by faith and civic leaders including the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Youth Helpline, Muslim Community Helpline, Federation of Muslim Organisations, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), Faith Associates, the Christian Muslim Forum, City Sikhs Network, and the Church of England, plus women’s rights networks including Inspire, the Henna Foundation, and Making Herstory

Children of Abraham: Jews and Muslims in Conversation is an interfaith dialogue program jointly organized and facilitated by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) who partnered to promote a nationwide series of local interfaith dialogues focusing on Muslim and Jewish communities, to promote mutual respect, understanding, and communication and to strengthen their capacity to advance peace and social justice on a global scale. They produced a handbook and resources to help local communities gain understanding of each other. 

Tariq Ramadan has called for a moratorium on corporal punishment (hudood punishments under Sharia), and on the death penalty everywhere.

Scholars have attempted to educate the community on the true meaning of Islamic terms like jihad, and to speak against violence even in response to provocation.

A Rand Corp.  report: Promoting Online Voices for Countering Violent Extremism  notes that   “American Muslims have played an important role in helping to counter violent extremism (CVE) and support for al-Qa’ida, and are increasingly using the Internet and social media to these ends. Discussions with a number of Muslim leaders active in social media suggest that it is possible to expand such efforts even further, and doing so is a major objective of the August 2011 White House strategy to counter violent extremism. RAND researchers reviewed literature and interviewed American Muslims experienced in social media to understand and explain key challenges facing Muslim activists against extremism, and to identify ways in which the public and private sector can help empower CVE voices online.”  On page 4, the report notes:

One small and anonymous Muslim organization creates online profiles to engage in extremist-oriented chatrooms and provide more positive counternarratives. They also operate unattributed Twitter accounts that criticize extremist arguments.16 The success of these efforts is measured by the amount of attention they receive from the community being targeted; a good account may even be “followed” on Twitter by known radicals.  Other social media–based messaging utilizes video content to discredit the extremist narrative. The Muslim Public Affairs
Council (MPAC), for example, produces original video content that is then distributed via YouTube. This e-dawah, or online outreach, includes a series of programs, including “Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice,” a short video showing several popular American imams condemning violence in the name of Islam.17

Muslim websites Sites like The American Muslim ***, Imam Suhaib Webb’s “virtual mosque” ***, the Muslim portal on Patheos ***, Mas’ud Ahmed Khan’s site *** and sites by scholars like Shaikh Ali Gomaa *** regularly publish articles and fatwas that contest the extremist narrative.

MPAC brought together scholars and human rights advocates to discuss the rights of religious minorities.  “Minority Rights in Muslim Countries: Majority Rule NOT Majority Tyranny” highlighted an issue that is often brushed under the rug in the larger Muslim community.  A first among Muslim organizations, the event focused on reconciling Islamic ethics with the rights of minorities and arguing against the un-Islamic actions of governments that persecute religious minorities. The panel came to the conclusion that “Education is key. Once Muslims understand that persecution of religious minorities is not accepted in Islam, they will work together with minorities to solidify their rights and equal citizenship.”

In 2012, ISNA cosponsored an International Conference on Citizenship and the Rights of Minorities in Muslim-Majority Countries in Tunis, Tunisia. This groundbreaking conference represents ISNA’s ongoing work with Muslim leaders worldwide to establish consensus on Islamic standards and to develop protocols for the advancement of religious freedom, particularly to protect religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

International efforts by Muslim scholars, such as A Common Word: Muslim Scholars Appeal to Christian Scholars for Dialogue and Peace,  the Amman Initiative and the Mardin Conference are also aimed at countering extremist interpretations of Islam.  As Abdallah Schleifer noted in the article The Amman Initiative: A Theological Counter-Attack Against Terrorism: “Its hard to imagine the vast conference hall of a five star hotel as a field position where forces are massing for a major counter attack, but such was the case at the Meridien Amman Hotel, in this sprawling Jordanian capital. His Majesty King Abdallah II gathered here more than 170 Sunni and Shiite religious scholars and Muslim intellectuals from 40 countries,  many of them outstanding figures— to take an uncompromising stand against extremist interpretations of Islam, and to go over on the offensive.” ... The Mardin Conference met to clarify Ibn Taymiyyah’s Fatwa which has been used by extremists to justify terrorism.[/url].

Local mosques like the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center have developed programs to work with youth.  The ISBCC has a program to keep young Somali immigrants off the streets and out of gangs.

An American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Conference was held in California.  The idea is that by standing up for their rights inside and outside the home, American Muslim women can be a force against religious and political extremism.

In Britain, the program Strategy to Reach, Empower, and Educate Teenagers (STREET) is highlighted in a Counter Terrorism Case Study in Government-Community Partnership and Direct Intervention to Counter Violent Extremism ***.  The Institute for Strategic Dialogue Policy Briefing discusses STREET on pages 11 and 12 of this PDF:

STREET aims to reach and engage young Muslims who are outside mainstream institutions, including mosques, in order to provide alternative and safe environments and, where necessary, targeted interventions. The project is targeted at young Muslims in the local area.

Description/activities:  Located in Brixton, South London, STREET is an outreach project which provides easy and direct 24-hour access for a significant number of young Muslims in south London, many of whom are regarded by extremist and terrorist groups as recruitment targets.

Its work is divided into four types of activities:
(1) Outreach, including football, boxing, and recreational and educational field trips;
(2) Youth HQ, including the delivery of thematic curricula, education, after-school programmes and social engagement events;
(3) Counselling, including self-referrals, links to youth offending and probation services, career development guidance, and other projects;
(4) Counter-propaganda, including media work, deconstruction of messages, internet work, and STREET in-house media.

The project is a Muslim community initiative designed to counter the adverse impact of extremist and terrorist propaganda in a section of the community that is susceptible to it – the Salafi community. The project also receives recently released prisoners who might be vulnerable to recruitment and will establish informal relationships with the local police and specialist units, such as the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit.

Conventional activities conducted in the area of outreach attract the largest number of participants and provide an opportunity for young people to get to know STREET and its staff in relation to safe and familiar activities. As a result of their involvement with the project, young people seek out STREET staff with their troubles and concerns because they have built up a trusted relationship. This might include anything from the normal social problems encountered by young people to issues relating to religious interpretations.  ...

In Chicago, Ameena Matthews and other Muslims work with Gang Interrupters and CeaseFire to fight the cycle of violence and turn young people (Muslim and non-Muslim) away from violence and gangs. 

In Philadelphia, Imam Suetwidien Muhammad fights street crime with a mosque fight club at Masjid Muhammad. 

In Britain there has been a series of anti-terror summer camps with the goal of teaching Muslim youth how to rebuff extremists who try to recruit them at schools and in online chat rooms.  “We want to give youngsters a balanced view of Islam and to remove the misconception of what jihad actually is,” organizer Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri told The Associated Press. “Extremists have confined the act of jihad to the act of militancy and violence. This is totally wrong according to Quranic commandments.”

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society ADAMS held a training seminar in June 2013.  In the company of law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, Muslims will pour over radical Islam’s reach on the web, learning how to access copies of al Qaeda’s English-language Inspire magazine and analyzing message boards and chat rooms frequented by would-be terrorists looking to recruit young Muslims to their cause.  “We have done these before a few years ago, but I think after Boston now people are seeing how much it’s needed,” said Imam Mohamed Magid, one of the event’s organizers and the imam of the northern Virginia mosque. “People need to see what their kids and communities could have access to, and learn how to thwart it.  The planned seminar, to be run by Al Muflehun (“The Successful”), an Islamic research and activist group aimed at preventing extremism.  ***

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the New America Foundation held two panels with Capitol Hill staffers, Muslim community leaders and policy experts to shed light on online extremism and how to combat it.  “Online Radicalization: Myths and Realities,” with prominent American Muslim scholars and thought leaders to address violent extremism in the form of online radicalization.  ***

The Muslim Council of Britain is holding a community seminar on “Protecting all our children: tackling grooming, safeguarding children in all communities”.  They state their objective as eradicating grooming of children and child abuse.  The conference brings together religious scholars, religious and community leaders, social workers and community activists. Our key objective is a simple one and that is to protect all victims of abuse and know how to do this in the most effective way. The conference also seeks to raise awareness, and to provide a forum from which positive actions can be taken to benefit not only the Muslims, but also wider communities regardless of race or religion. ***

MPAC is holding a series of Town Hall style meetings in Muslim communities across the country called Let’s Be Honest“This is about breaking the silence between generations, cultures and genders.  We have to face the tough issues head on and talk frankly about how to handle them, whether it’s about marriage, identity, sexuality, mental health, sectarian relations or interfaith relations.”  ...  “We are obsessed with the ‘other,’ and we should be concerned more with ourselves and addressing our own issues.”  ...  “ ... Ninety percent of the refugees coming into the U.S. are from Muslim-majority countries, and the Muslim community is not ready to receive them,” she said. “New immigrants often experience depression within a few months of arrival because of the cultural clash and difficulties in settling in. Having relationships with Muslims and Arabs like them makes a big difference in their transition, and we can all help with that.” **

MPAC has developed a program called Young Leaders Summits “By offering three unique Young Leaders Summits, MPAC seeks to expand the pool of emerging talent and new voices that can enrich the fields of policymaking, news media and the arts while also providing leadership development and creating a network of emerging leaders.” ... “Our leadership development programs—the Young Leaders Summits in Silicon Valley, Washington, DC, New York City & Los Angeles, our Internship Program, and NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change—address the critical need for thoughtful, effective leaders who can address local issues, national problems, and public opinion. The Summit is designed to enhance the civic identity of the participants, and to redefine the image and provide a voice of young Muslim American leaders among the policymaking and opinion-shaping community. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to enhance leadership skills, share unique perspectives with influential individuals and institutions and build relationships with like-minded young Muslim Americans.”  ** and **

These are just a few of the ongoing programs and efforts being undertaken by Muslims to counter the extremist message.  There is lots of GOOD NEWS about the American Muslim community, but somehow that is not what gets the majority of media attention.

It is interesting that Islamophobes like Robert Spencer (and his partner in hate, Pamela Geller) attack every effort made by mainstream Muslims to counter extremism.  Spencer attacked the “Change This” anti-domestic violence campaign.  They attacked other Muslim campaigns against honor killings and domestic violence. They attacked the #MyJihad campaign.  They attacked a Muslim scholar defending the Constitution of the U.S.  They regularly attack interfaith efforts like the Love thy neighbor campaign,  Change the Story, etc.  They attack Muslim community efforts to end domestic violence.  A list of Muslim community efforts against domestic violence and “honor” killings is HERE. There are no Muslim scholars, activists, community leaders, organizations, or interfaith efforts that include Muslims that have not been attacked.  See The Islamophobic Attempt to Marginalize American Muslim Civic Participation for lengthy lists (with links to sources) of such attacks.  In fact, you don’t even have to be a Muslim or Arab to come under attack by the Islamophobes. Non-Muslims only need to treat Muslims the same as they would any other citizen to be attacked. The constant demonization of Muslims doing anything at all outside of the Muslim community, or of non-Muslims who accept Muslims as equal citizens and participants in American society extends to just about any situation. 

It is clear that the Islamophobes, like the Muslim extremists (and all other extremists) are not a part of the solution, but part of the problem. 

UPDATE 6/15/2013

Clearly, some, even among our elected representatives, are unaware of the work being done by the Muslim community.  Think Progress reports Congressman Mike Pompeo [R-Wichita KS]: American Muslim Leaders Are ‘Potentially Complicit’ In Terrorist Acts: A Republican congressman claimed on the House floor on Tuesday that members of Muslim communities in the United States have not condemned acts of Islamic extremist terrorism against the U.S. and therefore are complicit in those and any future attacks.  ...    See also: Mike Pompeo: Muslim Leaders Who Do Not Denounce Terror are “Potentially Complicit,”  This is a reprehensible statement on his part.

Congressman Pompeo has issued a statement responding to what he calls “CAIR attacks” on his original anti-Muslim diatribe.  Pompeo says in the statement “CAIR and groups like it have yet to effectively use their massive public relations infrastructure to advance the moderate Islamic message of peace over extremism,” Pompeo said. “While it is laudable to issue English-language press releases in response to a couple of high-profile terrorist attacks, this is simply not enough. Instead, these groups must lead the charge on eliminating the radical elements in your faith. Statements of sympathy and regret following terrorist attacks are no substitute for a conversation within Islam that confronts extremism.  ...  I’m not backing down in my call for Islamic partners to do more to combat Islamic extremism. Actions speak louder than words: If religious leaders are serious about wanting to end this violence, they need to help address the cause of it, and that is by calling out fanatics.””

What a load of crock.  All American Muslims are not responsible for the actions of every Muslim. 

I would like to ask Rep. Pompeo why he is ignoring the statements, programs, and efforts of the American Muslim community.  We are doing everything we can within the law to counter extremist messages, and to notify law enforcement about any suspicious activities.  Is Rep. Pompeo suggesting that American Muslims should arm ourselves, form militias and send vigilantes out to engage individuals that we would have no more ability to identify ahead of a criminal act than law enforcement?  I would like to ask Rep. Pompeo where are the denunciations of the majority of terrorist acts which are carried out by non-Muslims.  I would like to ask Pompeo how is is leading the charge to eliminate the radical and criminal elements in his faith, or in our society generally.

UPDATE 9/26/2013

Family Links Parenting courses for Muslims aim to untangle culture from religion, addresses concerns among parents of how to reconcile western values with their religious upbringing ***.

Sahar Aziz has written a position paper Policing Terrorists in the Community ***

ISNA Delegation Meets President of Senegal, Plans for 2014 Religious Freedom Conference ***

UPDATE 3/24/2014

Salam al-Marayati of MPAC wrote Empowering the Community to Deal with Extremism in Our Mosques on the introduction of MPAC’s “Safe Spaces Initiative,” a community toolkit designed to empower the community to address these situations and concerns ***  The toolkit is a practical set of options to empower communities against violence and extremism through education and rehabilitation not just incarceration. These are actual steps communities can take to create crisis intervention teams to prevent violent extremism.

The Safe Nation Collaborative is a unique initiative designed to provide strategic cultural competency trainings to law enforcement, foster dialogue and cooperative relationships between American Muslim communities and the national security apparatus, and provide educational outreach to nonprofit organizations. The Safe Nation Collaborative is based in the Washington, DC metro region. **

UPDATE 5/23/2015

U.S. Muslims take on ISIS’ online recruiting machine ***.  European Imams Counter Online Extremism ***.  Muslim initiatives against extremism ***.  Muslim Leaders, Tech Companies Work to Counter Militants ***.  Viral Peace: New Strategy in the War on Terror: Trolling Jihadi Forums ***.  Affinis Labs: Apps Against ISIS: Incubator Sees Power in Social Media ***.  Humza Arshad: Muslim comedian’s anti-extremist message a big hit with British teens ***.  Muslim activists push back against extremists ***.  Mohammed Ahmed: Average Mohamed tries to thwart Islamic State with cartoons ***.  Ignored and Unreported, Muslim Cartoonists Are Poking Fun at ISIS ***.  When Muslims mock ISIS ***.  Muslims Against ISIS Facebook page ***


American/Canadian/European Muslim - Authority, Leadership, Community building (TAM article collection)


Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989.  Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism,  and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia.  Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.    Biography  You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( )